Harmful Immigration Bills on Maryland Legislative Agenda
FAIR Take | January 2021
The Maryland legislature is kicking-off its legislative session with the introduction of sanctuary legislation and a slew of other bills that place a greater emphasis on the welfare of illegal aliens than the well-being and safety of citizens and legal immigrants. Bills, like the ones being considered by the Maryland legislature, tell illegal aliens that despite violating federal law, state and local officials will look the other way when it comes to their immigration status.
The State and Local Government Participation in Federal Immigration enforcement (Senate Bill (SB) 88 and House Bill (HB) 304) would impede law enforcement and public officials’ collaboration and cooperation with federal immigration officers. Specifically, the bill would:
- forbid state or local law enforcement officers from asking about citizenship or immigration status during a stop, search, or arrest;
- forbid stops, detentions or arrests based on actual or suspected immigration status;
- forbid honoring immigration detainers or otherwise transferring people to federal immigration authorities without a judicial warrant, which don’t exist under federal law;
- forbid essentially all information-sharing or cooperation with federal immigration authorities;
- prohibit agreements related to immigration enforcement, such as 287(g) and Warrant Service Officer;
- allow foreign documents such as driver’s licenses and passports to be used as proof of identity without any heightened level of scrutiny; and
- require schools, hospitals and courthouses develop guidelines to limit immigration enforcement to the fullest extent possible.
If enacted, this sanctuary legislation would make Maryland more of a sanctuary state than California, with restrictions comparable to Washington State, Oregon and Illinois. After Montgomery County expanded its sanctuary policies, it experienced an illegal alien crime wave tied directly to its sanctuary policies. In just a little over a month, eight illegal aliens were charged with committing sex crimes in Montgomery County.
This is similar to what happened in Orange County, California. Two years after the state passed its sanctuary law, the Orange County sheriff’s office was forced to release more than 1,500 aliens with ICE detainers back onto the streets. More than 400 of those aliens were rearrested with charges including rape, assault with a deadly weapon, child sex offenses, domestic violence and driving under the influence.
SB 88 is currently scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on January 27 and HB 304 will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on February 17.
The legislature is also considering other bills that would more narrowly restrict cooperation with federal immigration authorities. HB 16 and SB 478 prohibit agreements to incarcerate immigration detainees, both by state and local authorities as well as private contractors. HB 23 and SB 234 would require state and local employees to deny access to any database of facial recognition to federal officials except with a warrant signed by a judge. When time is of the essence, this could mean the difference between catching dangerous criminal aliens or allowing them to remain on the streets of Maryland communities. If Maryland enacts this legislation, it would be only the second state to do so – Massachusetts adopted similar restrictions earlier this month.
Finally, SB 317 would create a right to counsel in immigration proceedings. The bill provides for a full-time taxpayer-funded office to provide legal representation to illegal aliens facing deportation. Illegal aliens in the state would be entitled to legal representation as well as illegal aliens who are Maryland residents being detained outside the state. This legislation conflicts with federal law which says that illegal aliens can retain counsel at their own expense or provided pro bono (free of charge), but that representation should not be shouldered by the taxpayers.
Moreover, SB 317 is patently unfair to citizens and legal immigrants who must pay for legal representation out of their own pockets. Free legal representation is generally unavailable to citizens or legal immigrants who face civil legal issues such as foreclosures, eviction proceedings, child custody cases or divorce proceedings.
Several states and local governments have established public or private legal defense funds for illegal aliens, but Maryland would be only the second state after Vermont to have full-time public employees providing this representation, and the first to have a dedicated office solely for this purpose. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and a continued economic downturn are already straining public resources, it is unclear how Maryland could afford to provide such a new benefit for illegal aliens rather than its own citizens and legal residents.
Marylanders concerned with enforcing our nation’s immigration laws should keep their eyes on their lawmakers in Annapolis over the coming weeks.